Patio Door Review: Folding vs. French vs. Sliding

Patio Door Review: Folding vs. French vs. Sliding

Summer is officially here and it’s time to enjoy the sunny days and warm weather. Your patio door has likely become one of the most used doors in your home with everyone going in and out to enjoy some time for play and relaxation outside. Your door and its functionality may be more on your mind now than any other time of the year. 

How much use does your door get? When was the last time you gave the door some maintenance? Is your door functioning? Is it energy efficient? Does your patio door have an insect screen? Are there doors available that are nicer or work better for your space? 

Maybe you’re just ready for a new look. Did you know that across the nation, twice as many homeowners are taking on home improvement projects because they want a new look as opposed to making an improvement because an element is at the end of its useful life?

If you've been thinking about getting new patio doors this article will go over the differences between folding, French, and sliding patio doors. Each of these doors has different and unique traits. Some may work better for your home and lifestyle than others. With so many choices we hope this helps you narrow down your decision.

What are folding patio doors? $$$$$

Folding patio doors, also known as accordion doors or stacking doors, are large patio doors that can sometimes span the width of an entire wall. Between folding doors, French doors, and sliding doors, it’s the folding doors that are going to make the biggest transformation to your home aesthetically.

These doors are definitely for homeowners who love to entertain. They’re also a great feature for homeowners who love the outdoors because they help blend your indoor and outdoor spaces.


Folding doors for indoor-outdoor living lifestyle.

For anyone thinking about the resale value, it’s good to know that millennials are starting to dip into the housing market. Millennials are venturing outside more than other generations and they value active lifestyles and entertaining. According to Heart & Home magazine, millennials want homes with large, open floor plans and seamless indoor-outdoor living spaces - these doors are exactly what millennials are looking for.

Millennials enjoy homes with focus on indoor-outdoor living lifestyles.

What are the features of a Folding Patio Door?

What makes these doors so valuable to a space is that the doors act as a wall of glass, which can be similar to a sliding glass door but not as constrained in movement. Folding doors open and fold to one side of the opening creating more room to move. The glass or open wall feature brings in more natural light for your home and allows for ventilation. 

Specific features you’ll want to check for across different manufacturers are

  • Configuration and opening options
  • Thresholds
  • Colors
  • Hardware
  • Glazing
  • Blinds between-the-glass
  • Insect screens

You’ll want to choose a door with a configuration that works for your home, consider which side the panels should stack toward and whether you’d rather have them stack on the inside of the home or outside.

Be sure to work with an experienced contractor because the installation is the most important part of these doors. A poor installation can lead to drafty and inefficient doors. Another problem with a bad installation is water infiltration, this can be avoided by choosing the appropriate threshold for the floor and making sure it is installed correctly.

Shop around to see which brands carry the colors and hardware you like as well as other accessories like blinds between-the-glass or insect screens.

What are French Patio Doors? $$$

French patio doors are a set of hinged doors that can be opened fully creating a wide entry. The pair of doors has glass panes that extend most of the length of the panel. Sometimes these doors are referred to as French windows, swinging patio doors, or hinged patio doors.

French patio doors are a great option between the lavish and commanding folding door and the household staple sliding door. These doors are perfect for someone looking for an elegant and classic feature for their home and compliment homes with traditional architectural styles.

"French doors" typically refer to any set of hinged doors, some manufacturers also refer to a single hinged door as a French door. There are also manufacturers that differentiate French doors from others by emphasizing that the lower rail panel has a taller profile than a standard door. These doors can be paired with another door and open from the center or they can be paired with a sidelight in a similar style.

Milgard inswing patio door.

You might imagine a classic French door that gives a room an air of romance and added character but these are also available in more contemporary and minimalist styles depending on the manufacturer. 

What are the features of French Patio Doors? 

French patio doors are hinged like a standard entry or interior door. Similar to the folding door, French patio doors are like glass walls that can fully open.

Although not as dramatic as the folding door, French doors are also great for creating that indoor-outdoor feel in your home. Your space and hardware will really determine how far you can open the doors but it’s possible to have a completely unobstructed clearing when the doors are open.

This style door does have a wider frame so you may get less natural light with the door closed than you would with a folding door or sliding door.

Some other features to keep in mind when browsing French patio doors are

  • Configurations and opening options
  • Colors
  • Hardware
  • Grilles
  • Threshold
  • Sidelights

Assuming you choose a typical French door with two panels, you’ll want to decide if you want both panels to be operable (to open) or just one. You may also have the option for sidelights, additional panels, or customizable panel width.

What are Sliding Patio Doors? $$

Sliding patio doors are the most common style of patio doors in most homes so it’s likely you know exactly what these are or have at least seen them in the homes of your friends or neighbors. Sliding doors are two panels of glass usually with just one stationary panel and an operable sliding panel. These are also sometimes called “gliding” doors.

Homeowners that want to bring in more natural light but don’t necessarily want the doors to fully open, or don’t have the space for folding or French doors should opt for sliding doors. It’s also a good choice for a home with a lot of in an out traffic because of the ease of sliding open a door. Like with the other door options sliding doors also have insect screens so you can still get extra ventilation, in fact, screen doors are standard on many sliding patio doors.

Modern sliding doors are also available in glass panel walls like folding doors and french doors, the difference in these doors is how they open.

Andersen A series gliding door.200 series gliding door in glass wall.

What are the features of Sliding Patio Doors?

Sliding patio doors are sleek and easy to use. They are great for small areas where doors that open might hit a wall or just won’t function well and they work well with most architectural styles. These doors offer views and functionality. 

This is definitely an easy access door. Well installed and well-maintained doors slide easily along a track, all it takes is a gentle push or pull and the door glides open or closed. Most people find this sliding feature quicker and easier than turning a knob (especially when carrying something else in your hands) or unhooking latches on each panel to open.

Standard sliding doors have two panels but as you shop for a door or think about what style door you’ll choose for your home, keep in mind that manufacturers also offer three- and four-panel door options.

In addition to the features we listed for the other door styles, you’ll also want to consider durability, security, and operation features for all the doors. All of these doors have security features but you may like some more than others. Also to consider in that respect is that some manufacturers have "smart" sensors for doors and windows. 

Two tips for choosing patio doors

Regardless of which door you choose for your home, I have two recommendations that will ensure you get great doors and have a great experience.

  1. Work with an experienced professional
  2. Be picky about your hardware

Hardware and installation can make or break your investment so be picky about it! Doors are a major investment for your home both for aesthetics and for energy efficiency. You spend a lot of time doing research to make a smart investment, so don’t let all that go to waste by working someone who doesn’t have a good reputation or who won’t help you choose the best hardware for your door.

Ready to replace your patio door? We can help.

Brennan carries patio doors from top vendors. We’ve been in the business of windows and doors for nearly 40 years and are happy to help with your project. 

If you know you want to replace your door and are interested in receiving a FREE ESTIMATE please fill out our contact form by clicking "Free Estimate" at the top right of the page and we will respond within a business day. 

Please reach out to us if you have any questions by phone or on social media. You can find us on Facebook or Instagram


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